|The first part of this story has already been told in Ray’s own words.
On his return to Australia after the war, Dad settled with his new bride in Stanley Street, Bondi Junction, before building the family home at 27 Crowley Crescent, West Ryde. Jill and I grew up in this house and enjoyed a particularly happy childhood there, knowing that we were always deeply loved and totally supported.
I have many fond memories of family outings and picnics, as well as the lessons learned around the home. From my father I developed my passion for cricket (and perhaps by extension, for ABC Radio), as well as a love of The Sentimental Bloke and of Australian bush ballads. I remember the Saturday afternoons at the church cricket competition including the day Dad was out for 99 and even more vividly the day a short, rising delivery caught him flush in the face, breaking his nose and seeing us spending several hours in Casualty at Ryde Hospital.
Like most men of his generation, Dad was an extraordinary home handyman. It appeared there was nothing that could not be made, modified or fixed. Our first Esky for example was a beautifully crafted blue plywood box, insulated and lined with galvanised iron, its hinged lid secured by metal clips and provided with two leather handles. Similarly there were chairs, picnic tables, storage boxes, and a myriad of gadgets that were part of our daily lives. He would turn his hand to any trade – building, concreting, electrical, plumbing- all with great aplomb. I do recall, however, the Saturday morning I returned from the local shopping centre to see Dad dripping wet standing somewhat sheepishly under the geyser shooting high into the air where he had, perhaps a little unwisely, attempted to change the tap washer on the water meter.
I remember fondly the peach and apricot trees in the backyard and the fruit that was almost routinely infested with fruit-fly, leading to the fairly tedious task of peeling, dicing and cutting out the grubs before mum would stew the remainder for dessert. Dad taught me the much less labour-intensive method of enjoying the fruit by sitting on the back step in the dark and eating it fresh from the tree. Apparently, what you can’t see …..
Our regular summer holidays were always most enjoyable. After Christmas at home and Boxing Day picnicking at Dee Why with Jim and Joyce Collins and their family, we would embark on the then long trek up the North Coast. This typically involved a visit to our grandparents and Ron and Millie on the family farm before two weeks camping at Flynns Beach, Port Macquarie – well at least in those years when we weren’t flooded out and beating an early retreat back home. Typically, Dad would have modified the tent since last year, having spent long hours with a curved needle and waxed thread sewing extension pieces of tarpaulin into the tent to increase our comfort. Sometimes we were joined on our holidays by our great family friends the Lamberts from further down the street.
Dad was always ready to provide a helping hand to others. Whether it was assisting a neighbour with a household task or supporting the Parents and Citizens Association, the church or the Masonic Movement, he was always a cheerful and willing participant. This concern for the welfare of others was continued later in his life with his long involvement with Meals on Wheels after his move to the Central Coast some twenty years ago.
When first Jill and then I entered married life Dad welcomed our partners, Graham and Jenny, into the family with an immense sense of satisfaction, pride and warmth. He was delighted with the arrival of his grandchildren, Shannon, Jane, Kate and Tom, and was always a very willing babysitter and playmate. For the grandchildren to stay with Nana and Pa was a special treat – and I think the kids enjoyed it as well! Dad took a particular interest in the achievements of each of his grandchildren, beaming his way through various school functions, concerts and sporting events as they each did him proud. He has continued to feel a great sense of pride at their successes in adult life and was always gladdened by their company.
Caravanning became an interest which brought special pleasure. There was a time when Mum and Dad were rarely home as a few days away seemed an irresistible proposition. On occasions we would meet them somewhere, camping for a few days with them as a family holiday. They enjoyed many adventures as they explored the freedom of the road finding themselves in many beautiful and exotic places. They usually travelled alone but sometimes went off in convoy with friends. Their trips usually ran to several weeks but they did also embark on the grey nomad trail spending many months travelling around Australia.
Always a keen gardener, Dad maintained beautiful gardens both at West Ryde and Umina. He particularly loved roses and in his latter years used to pick a blossom for Mum almost on a daily basis.
Dad was always a particularly devoted husband. In fact his relationship with Mum stands as a model for everything a marriage should be. Their’s was a real partnership and I grew up accustomed to seeing my father cooking and sharing other household chores – a situation which I believe was hardly the norm at the time. Even as he became aware of his declining health, his first thought was to move into more manageable accommodation so that Mum’s welfare might be assured. As his ability to communicate declined his affection remained undimmed and he typically greeted her with a smile as he held her hand and kissed her before sitting contentedly in her company.
Dad always took things in his stride. Not one to rail against ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, he calmly faced up to setbacks and concentrated his efforts on finding the best way to deal with the situation. In this way, most catastrophes were easily overcome. He never buckled in this approach until he reached the most terrifying stage of his disease with the realisation he was losing the ability to speak. The frustration and anger soon passed, however, with his inevitable decline.
My father was always both a gentle man and a thorough gentleman – qualities which remained with him to the very end. He was caring, kind, thoughtful and considerate. He loved the company of others and treated everyone with courtesy and dignity taking a genuine interest in their well-being. An unassuming man of principle and integrity with a keen sense of humour, I never knew him to be in conflict with anyone.
In short, my father was the most decent of human beings. I always wanted to be just like him when I grew up and am glad that I got the opportunity to tell him so. Dad, I still feel like that today.
We each have our own spirituality – our own ideas on the meaning and mystery of life and death. But whatever you may see as the reward for a life well-lived, I am confident that my father is enjoying that now.